A Few Easy Questions

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

This story is on the other side of the spectrum for me. Where I usually write silly, odd tales this is a serious mystery. Dive into the life of Mr. Curtis, and swim around in his worried, busy life. Watch his life change as much as it possibly can in as little of a time span as two days.

A Few Easy Questions

Introduction:

This was not how Mr. Curtis planned to spend most of his Saturday nights. His common, blissful sleep he adored so much had somehow been replaced with a tiring midnight chase down a muddy hill. Rain was pouring down and beating on his head as it plagued the muddy slope that he was clumsily making his way down. He must have looked ridiculous bouncing down toward a lake in this storm that would disturb Zeus himself. He nearly slipped and fell with every uncoordinated, choppy step. The unrecognizable pattern of his slapping feet slowly drew to an end as he reached the bottom of the hill. He was breathing heavily, and he was caked in a mixture of sweat, rain, and mud. He quickly dug into his suit pocket, desperately trying to find his inhaler, when the harsh realization that he had left it on the dashboard in his car entered his mind. He focused back on the task at hand: the chase. While driving on the road up the hill, his fedora had been oddly blown off of his head and into the lake by an unfortunately timed gust of wind. Luckily, the water was calm. He thanked God for that as he located his hat floating a few feet away from him. His loafers and new suit were wrecked already, so he did not hesitate to wade out in the water until it was waist deep. He then reached out and grabbed his treasured fedora from the lake’s surface, flicking mud and moss from its folds.

He trudged back up the hill. His mind was fogged with the fact that he was about to face another sleepless night. He got back in his car, which was pulled over, waiting for him atop the hill. It was an old, black truck with both windows open. His hat had somehow escaped through one of the windows and blown a fair distance to the lake. He slammed the door and drove home. On the way there he tried to empty his mind of all problems and focus on the road. This made him sleepy, so he started to think of his career. A failing crime journalist and an unrecognized comedian seemed a depressing thing to think about, so he thought about his childhood instead- Happier times. His childhood thoughts faded into career thoughts again as he worried about his interview tomorrow; the one that could be crucial to his success. He would be interviewing a mad murderer. He pulled into the parking lot outside his apartment that he shared with other comedians like him, and got out of his now dirty car. As he brushed dried mud and flakes of dirt off his fedora, Mr. Curtis took a final look back at his truck. He noticed the inhaler still perched on the dashboard. He hadn’t needed it. The signs of an asthma attack he felt earlier had escaped him. How was that possible? He tried to remember when the heavy breathing had stopped.

Part 1

Mr. Curtis woke early the next morning to go buy a new suit, as his had been ruined by that previous night’s occurrence. He had to get a loan in order to get his suit and was now in debt. He prepared himself for a long, boring drive to Sacramento, where he would interview his prison inhibiter.

He got in the car with a cup of scalding, hot coffee, putting his keys into position and clicking them into place. He decided he would stop by the local comedy joint and sign up for a night. It was only about a mile away and it was on the way to Sacramento. He memorized in his head the various questions he would ask the murderer. He shuffled through them like mental notecards, and occasionally thought of a joke or two to tell in his standup routine. When he arrived at the comedy club, he shut the car door with a thud and began walking toward the inviting front doors. They were glass doors with fancy, hotel-style, golden handles and photos of people laughing plastered all over them. Once pushed open, they released the trapped fragrance of air freshener and recently cleaned carpet; a smell so familiar to Mr. Curtis that he had grown accustom to it. He scooted over to the front desk, rubbing his suddenly sore neck, and waving to people he knew. He leaned over the front desk, balancing on his elbows, and addressed the man on his computer.

“Hey, I’d like to sign up for Thursday. Got any open spots?”

“Are you a member?”

“Yes”

“I’m sorry sir, but I don’t see you on the list.”

“Well I know it didn’t just expire. I had it renewed last month.”

The anger of Mr. Curtis was like a chain holding up about two years of intense stress and denial. It seemed to have finally snapped on this tiny little inconvenience.

“Look again.”

“Sir, I’m telling you that you aren’t on the list.”

“Look again! I’m a freaking member! You need to look again!”

“Sir, please calm down.”

“You calm down! I have a right mind to toss you across this desk! Now, look again you jerk!”

“Security, come to the front please!”

“There is no need for that! I’m leaving! You and this pit are both ridiculous!”

He stormed out; face red, rubbing his aching neck. Mr. Curtis threw himself into his car and made his anger apparent as he screeched out of the lot. He chugged his piping, hot coffee, ignoring the pain in his throat as he swerved to avoid cars. He calmed himself down and collected his wits by the time he reached the prison. A guard who had been expecting his presence met him at the gate and gestured him through a long, well lit hallway. Their shoes let loose an annoying squeak as they made contact with the shiny, blue-green floor. Numbered doors on the left and right walls passed by them. So did the rectangles of light on the ceiling. They came across a red door with the number combination: 10-3-11. Inside, the murderer sat down at a table. He looked menacing. His face, lit up by the hanging bulb from the ceiling, was covered in some sort of muzzle. A straight jacket hugged him tightly, only letting through tiny folds of orange jumpsuit. His soulless eyes gazed into the eyes of Mr. Curtis, who laid a notepad on the table and sat down. He cleared his throat and began.

“Mr. Oswald. Is it true you admitted to murdering a man?”

“Yeah, I tried to strangle him with a wire hanger, but he was a fighter, so I drowned his sorry carcass in the lake.”

“I see, and why are you being so open about such a terrible crime.”

“I take pride in my work. Most likely more than you do.”

“Do you have any remorse at all? You seem to remember it so clearly. Most people cannot remember what they did in a fit of rage or panic.”

“I guess I’m unique. People remember things how they want to. But me...I remember what really happened.”

“When did you murder this person?”

“You look familiar.”

A guard that was watching them said, “Mr. Oswald, may I remind you that you have to answer these questions?”

“Okay then.”

“You know what, I’ll change that question. What did the man look like?

“Dead”

“What was his name?”

“How should I know?”

“Can you describe him?”

“Dead”

“Tell me something—“

“No, you tell me something. Who called you to come to this interview?”

This question struck Mr. Curtis like a knife. He couldn’t remember. He was speechless, and his neck was now aching terribly. He felt his temples pumping and became light headed.

“That will be all the questions”, he said rising to his feet unsteadily.  

“Mr. Curtis, are you feeling well?” asked a guard. He replied with a nod as he pushed the door open and hurried toward the bathroom. Once there, he shoved open the door and practically dove into the sink, feeling dizzy. He looked at himself in the mirror. He looked deathly. Black rings around his eyes were stamped upon sickly skin and flushed cheeks. His neck was chafing and red and his entire face seemed to resemble that of a skeleton’s. He needed to get home.

 He drove over the speed limit the whole way there, and once he got there he ran past the lobby and straight up the stairs. Outside of his room, one of his roommates was sitting and weeping. He ignored it and darted into the bathroom. He was so dizzy that he knocked a picture off the wall as he passed it. Shuffling through the cabinets, looking for medicine, he became on the verge of fainting. His vision was blurred and contorted through watery eyes. He desperately pulled a container of what he thought was head-ache medicine from its drawer. He tore the cap from it and showered his face in tiny green and orange pills, as he fell on the floor, wheezing. His chest was pumping. Was death coming to claim him?

Part 2

Two hours later, he was on a small, rickety canoe. The man in white paddled with an easy, steady, flowing pace. The lake was peaceful this time of night. The moon was at its brightest; stamped fully against the obsidian, star studded sky. It glittered off the water in little spastic speckles. “We are almost there,” said the man in white, with a reassuring smile. Mr. Curtis nodded back, certain of what he would see.

Two hours previous from the peaceful night’s scenery, a wave of realization rolled over the sputtering, wheezing, mess that he was, and with it came a sudden recovery. All at once, his mind revealed to him what he must do. He didn’t like it, but he knew it would no longer matter what choices he made. He wouldn’t have any effect on anyone’s lives anymore-- at least, not purposely. He stood up and left the apartment. He got in his car with a sense of acceptance, and drove down to the lake. Unlike the night before, when he’d lost his fedora, the weather was peaceful. His car ran out of gas about a quarter of the way there, and he got out and left it sitting dangerously and irresponsibly in the center of the road. Nobody would mind it though, it would cause no trouble at all, because, oddly enough, it was a matter to be debated that it was even physically there. Mr. Curtis began walking toward the lake. He thought of the interview that had caused him to realize what was happening in the first place. He restated those key words in his mind again. People remember things how they want to. He remembered. You look familiar. He was mad at the man who told him this, but felt awfully fortunate to have had the chance to interview him and very specifically him. He remembered sentences and their correlations more and more as he inched closer to the lake.

Once there, he slipped down the hill, and arrived at the slope into the lake. This time, he wasn’t chasing his beloved hat and worrying about important this and money that. For once he was at peace, ready to go and face his fate. Well, aside from the one he was sure he had already faced. Then, a canoe drifted up out of what seemed like thin air, but couldn’t be certain. Mr. Curtis turned his attention to it. Sitting inside, holding a double sided oar was a grinning man in an impressively clean white suit.

“So you figured it out, huh?” said the man.

“Yes sir” replied Mr. Curtis

“How was the interview?”

“Eye opening, Mr.…”

“Fate, Call me Mr. Fate”

“So it’s true then? I’m really—“

“Would you like to go see the proof, Mr. Curtis? I’ll take you there right now. All you need do is hop in.”

Mr. Curtis shifted into the canoe until he was satisfied with a comfortable position. Mr. Fate smiled, showcasing a set of pearl-bright teeth. He looked about fifty. His green eyes rested under the awning of his bushy, gray eyebrows. There were four lines that scaled his forehead up to a neatly combed head of whitened hair. He paddled on. The lake was peaceful this time of night. The moon was at its brightest; stamped fully against the obsidian, star studded sky. It glittered off the water in little spastic speckles. “We are almost there,” said the man in white, with a reassuring smile. Mr. Curtis nodded back, certain of what he would see. He remembered more now: The pain in his neck, and the description given to him by the sick murderer of how the dark deed was performed. It all linked together. They were coming closer to a floating object that would have given off the illusion of looking like a trash bag or some debris to most people who traveled toward it. Mr. Curtis decided to ask Mr. Fate a few things.

“What was his name?” asked Mr. Curtis.

“Oswald, Phillip F. Oswald” replied Mr. Fate.

“How’d they catch him?”

“He confessed. He’s a mad man, that one”

“That’s it, isn’t it?” Mr. Cutis said pointing at the floating mass.

“I’ll let you see for yourself”.

The canoe came to a decelerating halt next to it. He looked down and saw it. He knew it would be there, and he knew what it was, but it was still surprising to see it so close. It was somehow fascinating. There, floating before him was the beacon of proof. He was staring into the eyes of his dead self.

“—enough?” inquired Mr. Fate. Mr. Curtis nodded, ready to pass into heaven or hell, but with one more question.

Mr. Fate read his mind. “I cannot let you enter your destined area unless you have everything off your mind”

“Why did I get the privilege of interviewing my own murderer?”

“Everyone must come to peace. It’s my job to make that happen. You just needed a little nudge before you could handle seeing yourself like this. You know, passed on. If one is not at peace, and if one still has questions about life on Earth, one can never truly leave. One can never truly pass on. You see, Mr. Curtis, your life was so bombarded with business and worry, that you missed your own death. What better person to tell you about your death than your own murderer. Even his room number was to inform you. ’10-3-11’. Does that sound familiar?”

“10-3-11”. That was yesterday’s date-- The date of his death. Mr. Curtis took one last look around him, and realized how much, yet how little he was leaving behind. Like just another Saturday night, he passed.

 


Submitted: October 21, 2012

© Copyright 2021 DaHouns. All rights reserved.

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